Candidate Response: Jesse Oswalt

Below is the unedited response to the Candidate Questionnaire from Mr. Oswalt:

Question/Topic Candidate’s Response
What is your position on the use of the Lake Forest Preservation votes by the board? If you are in favor of retaining them, please explain your rationale. Lake Forest Preservation is by definition a corporation and corporations are not allowed a vote.  There has to be a change in the bylaws disallowing the board to use any property votes on any issue.
Would you be willing to give the right to vote on bylaws amendments back to the LF Members? YES — That right to vote on bylaws should never have been taken away.  Or given away!  The power to vote on the bylaws or any other governing documents, belongs to the Property Owners.
Would you consider a dues reduction since dues were raised to $70 when the Board was planning to build a new YC and 19th Hole, now that building renovation is planned instead? Yes – Any new increases will have to come only with some extremely serious justification if I am elected.  This is a major issue among the Property Owners as well as myself.  Reducing the dues will go a long way in reducing the discord regarding the Board.
How do you envision the lake after the remedial work on Tiawasee creek and the marina dredging? The lake needs dredging, make access points and by all means, reestablish the shorelines to a state it was in early 1990 or even earlier. Some properties (like mine) that were purchased as “lake Front”, are no longer on the lake and even if they are, the lake depth is drastically reduced.  The Association needs to promote the lake as an amenity.  The lake, or the absence of, is a sore spot with me.  Because the lake doesn’t have the capacity to control flood waters, I am now in the Federal Flood Zone.
What would you do about the Yacht Club? Keep it running or figure out a way to get rid of it and why? Study ways to have it at least a break-even venture.  If, in a three-year period, that can’t be accomplished, look for ways to divest the property rather than continue to drain the bank accounts that are supported by our dues.  Renovation, at this time, is worth a little investment.  Even if we sell or lease it, it must be attractive and functional to buyers and investors.  The ultimate decision belongs to the Property Owners.
What would you do about the golf course and the declining number of players? Professionally market the golf course. If not self-sustaining in a three-year period, study other uses for the land that would be advantageous to more than 150 golfers.
What is the plan for enforcing current rules to keep our neighborhood nice? First make sure the rules are enforceable and are rules the Property Owners feel are important.  I wouldn’t object to an enforcement officer that could uniformly identify violations, opposed to the selective, hit or miss enforcement we presently have.
What would you do about terms of office and term limits for board directors? Reduce terms to three years and have a waiting period of at least one year after 2 consecutive terms.
Rather than having the board decide unilaterally, would you be in favor of having member committees formulate multiple options to be presented to the membership to vote on the future course of action for our amenities? I would like to see a committee for each amenity made up of board members and non-board members to develop options and let the property owners decide by vote.
Would you put the financial reports back on the Lake Forest website? YES, if it shows income and expenses per line item with monthly and year to date actual figures compared to budget as well as bank account balances.
What would you do about answering homeowners’ questions? Since no questions are answered at the meetings would you consider putting the Parking Lot back on-line? The Parking Lot or similar tool can be quite useful for getting information disseminated. An agenda item should also be added allowing Member questions in the Stated Board Member meetings or in regularly held Member’s meetings.  The only way the Property Owners can vote on issues, is to be informed and educated on the issues and Board proposals or actions. 
What would you do about instilling trust between the homeowners and the board? Establish and maintain wide open transparency at any cost.  No more Special meetings without proper notice to the membership.  Keep informative minutes of ALL meetings and ratify them at the next Stated Board Meeting.  Answer questions honestly and abstain from stating opinions as fact.  Make meeting minutes more informative.  Report complete financials on the Lake Forest web site and rescind section2.7 of the bylaws with respect to recording of Board Meetings.
What would you do about the dictatorial attitude the current board has? Insist on democratic and parliamentary rules, procedures and policies being followed and involve Property owners whenever possible.  The Board is to serve at the pleasure of Property Owners.
What are your thoughts about excessive absenteeism of Board Members at the Stated Board Meetings? I have submitted a change to the bylaws to address absenteeism by automatically removing offenders, unable or unwilling to attend meeting, because it should never be tolerated.  Just because the position is voluntary, with no compensation, is no reason not to honor a commitment to serve.
Would you spread the workload among board members so that one member does not have so much power and control? I see it as spreading the power instead of spreading the workload.  It may be necessary to add additional Board Members to accomplish this equitably and develop a system of cross checks.
Which, if any, of the key positions do you feel qualified for and why?  President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, Sergeant at Arms. Sergeant at Arms, long range planning, nomination/Election and bylaws Committees. I have served on national committees responsible for establishing policies and procedures for patient care. Ignoring recognized procedures of governance is one of my pet peeves.  I have no problem with challenging the Board, Property Owner or even the President, when the rules of governance are not followed.
Would you be in favor of at least 3 Member’s Meetings (counting the Annual meeting) per year?  Absolutely if the meetings are held in accordance to parliamentary procedures and not controlled by the Board.
Would you be in favor of members introducing motions at members’ meetings and having a member vote on them?  Would you abide by the decisions made at such meetings? Certainly!  That is the democratic way of conducting business.  This is the only way the Property Owners have a voice.  However, the business of the Association would need to be as transparent as possible in order to allow informed members to vote on a motion affecting the entire membership. Every Board member is duty bound to abide by the voice of their constituents.
How do you feel about doing projects as we can afford them, instead of trying to do several projects at once and raising dues to do so? Do the projects, one at a time, and with member approval, when moneys are available, not before.  Projects should be outlined and justified in the short-range and long-range plan. The long-range goals for any project should include a plan and budget for repair and continual maintenance.
What would you do about the 53 or so employees Lake Forest has and the large percentage of our dues it takes to pay them. There needs to be an internal efficiency study done to determine that question.  There is enough talent within LFPOA and ICON to accomplish this without an outside consulting firm or cutting services to the community.
Do you feel the LFPOA should opt into the Alabama’s Homeowners Act? YES, for purposes of transparency, comparison and uniformity.
There are companies that provide labor and equipment to maintain golf courses. This would not require equipment leases nor personnel by Lake Forest. Would you compare their cost to in-house costs? As a matter of good business practices, this should have been done ages ago as well as ongoing.
Would you do what the homeowners want done, by vote, rather than thinking you know what is best for Lake Forest? What I think is irrelevant.  As a Board member, if I feel strongly about any action or proposal, my job is to educate the members and to justify my thinking.  If the members want something differently, after defining the pros and cons, the majority must be followed.
Would you support opening committees such as finance and bylaws to member participation and make those meeting minutes easily available to members? I feel the majority of any committee should be Board Members, after all, that is why the Board Members were elected and they should honor their commitment to the membership.  However, every attempt should be made to include Non-Board members in the businesses of the Association’s committees.  Understanding committees have no authority to approve, detailed progress notes and recommendations should be submitted to the Board to be published as part of the minutes for each Stated Meeting.
Would you support a complete re-write of bylaws? If not totally rewritten, each bylaw should be scrutinized and a comprehensive document presented to the membership for a vote.
What are your long-term and short-term goals/vision for our community? I could give a list of Clichés but the truth of the matter is the Board needs to develop short- and long-term goals aligned with the mission statement and the members wishes.  My personal feeling is that the present Board does not want to spend the time necessary to build these goals.  To do it correctly it will take a lot of input from every source available and to then sift through it all and sort into undesirable and desirable goals. The desirable goals will have to be subdivided into un-accomplishable and accomplishable goals based on the revenue budget.  What remains will have to be assigned a priority.  I am certainly willing to undertake the task but there is a lot of cooperation necessary before a resolution can be formulated and presented to the members.  I would suggest a committee of Board members and non-Board members to tackle a project of this magnitude.
Should the Board or its Committees be allowed to endorse a candidate running for election to the Board of Directors? Absolutely not.  That is considered a conflict of interest by any governing policy, procedure or practice in any publication I have ever read.  The Board must remain neutral.
Should the President’s Column in the Lake Forester be used to promote current board members that are up for re-election? NO – that is a conflict of interest and presents an unfair advantage over other candidates.
Would you be willing to revoke the bylaw change that prevents members from discussing/sharing POA information and removing the NDA from viewing our accounts and other documentation; would you go one step further and use the member section of the website to make information readily available to all members. Yes, to all three questions
Would you allow members to attend meetings and access the website “regardless of standing”; why should someone who is behind in their dues be banned from seeing the bylaws, covenants, meeting minutes, and their own statements of account? I would be in favor of changing the bylaws to allow members, NOT in good standing, to attend meetings and access the entire web site.  Voting would be another matter altogether.
Would you consider the rights of homeowners who are behind paying dues as a hardship verses deadbeat and not take away meetings and voting privileges from those who have suffered hardships and are making strides to pay? Every Homeowner, even in arrears, should have the right to be heard. Each case would have to be heard, proven and determined on its own merits.  Those in arrears should be contacted and given the opportunity to plea their case before the Board or minimally the Finance Committee.  There would need to be a statement of contract negotiated outlining the responsibilities of each party.
What (besides ignoring them) would you do about residents that have neglected their properties, and let them fall into disarray? Leave trash cans in their front yard? Have non-operating cars in their yard? Have weeds growing in their gutters? Etc. ARC should have a procedure in place to properly identify and notify the Property Owner and/or renter and spell out specific time-frames to come into compliance.  The problem as I see it is not policy or procedure, it stems from a biased method to identify Property Owners in Non-Compliance and the unfair lack of uniform enforcement.
The LF POA is registered as a non-profit organization 501(c)(7). Alabama State Law requires that an organization of this type makes available to its membership records of all board activity including stated meetings, work sessions, and special meetings. What is your view on the current level of compliance with the law and how (if at all) do you feel we should change current practices? Not only should the Property Owners be allowed access, but the NDA should be abolished and Property Owners should be allowed to take notes or get copies for their personal use.  I do however agree, the information gleaned, however acquired, should not be disseminated to other than Lake Forest Property Owners publicly or privately.
How would you propose to replace board members who resign before their term has expired?  How long should the replacement serve? In a Special election in a Special called Meeting for such purpose where the nominating Committee recommends a minimum of three candidates chosen from a list developed from an E-Blast of Property Owners and candidates from the previous election of Directors, willing to assume the position of Interim Director only for the remainder of the time until the next election of Directors.  The choice should not be the Board’s alone.  If the departing Director was elected by the Members, so then should be a replacement by a vote of the members present and in person.
What are your specific ideas about working with the city of Daphne to assist in obtaining city and state government funding for ongoing and future improvement projects specifically the yacht club? This should be an ongoing task.  Every opportunity to take advantage of government funding should be investigated. The Board should take an active roll in city planning and forge relationships with City commissioners and the Mayor’s office.
What experience do you have in obtaining government funding for neighborhood projects, roads, streets, sidewalks, lighting, signage etc.? None – My experience is confined to the medical field.
Have you ever been associated with a Federal/State/City grant application that has come under legislative investigation for non-compliance? NO
Have you ever personally violated Federal/City/State or POA building regulations?  Please describe/explain. NO
Have you ever been sanctioned for, or convicted of, or lost a professional license due to, financial malfeasance? NO
Have you knowingly ever committed, or cause to be committed as part of a larger group, financial malfeasance? NO
Have you knowingly ever committed, or cause to be committed as part of a larger group, accounting/financial fraud in a non-profit organization such as inflating invoices, overordering equipment/products, or use of preferred suppliers with conflicts of interest contrary to bylaws and fiduciary best practices? NO
Do you think we get value for money from the Icon management contract? What would you do differently (if anything)? Even though I have viewed the Contract, I am not sure.  Once on the Board, I can scrutinize it carefully.
Since the board has banked hundreds of thousands of our dollars, would you consider a dues decrease?  What would be your optimum level for our dues in the current climate? Decrease to $50.00 to $55.00/month
Should the Board be allowed to call Special Meetings without a minimum of three (3) days’ notice to the Membership?
Follow up question. Do you feel the Board of Directors use Special Meetings to covertly conduct business of the Association?
As a part of transparency and to follow Roberts Rules – it should not be allowed.

I have strong suspicions that Special Meetings are being used for just such purposes.
What will be the top 3 priorities for you as a new (or re-elected) board member?  Reduce dues. Implement bylaws changes to return the voice and vote to the Members, establishing trust between the members and the Board. Increasing transparency of actions, proposed and taken, by the Board following proven rules of governance.
What is your reaction to previous board members referring to the members as “uninformed” and “flat-earthers” First of all, it is insulting.  I have never understood why any Board feels the need to withhold information from the people they are representing.  It is the Boards responsibility to communicate and educate the membership on all factors influencing Board actions.  There needs to be realistic and honest justification of their actions, not justification based quoting Yoda from Star Wars movies.
Should voting (for board members, bylaws, covenant changes, and major financial decisions) be for all members or only a subset of “informed” members; if so, who should decide who is “informed” or not? As above, it is the Boards responsibility to communicate and educate the membership of all factors influencing Board actions through open communications and honest justification of actions proposed or taken.
When voting is returned to the membership, do you agree to abide by the memberships mandate – even if it differs from your own opinion/ideas? In a democratic environment, everyone, Board members and Non-Board members alike, have no option but to abide by the majority vote.
Will you be funding an election campaign? Will any of that funding come from third-parties such as donations? Will donations be accepted from people/entities outside of the neighborhood? NO
Would you require the board to answer member questions at stated board meetings since we do not get answers anywhere else? YES
Would you consider a reduced rate or no POA dues for those who own 2 lots but one lot is not able to be built on? YES
Would you consider a fines amnesty period to allow those that are behind in their dues chance to catch up? YES
The increase in dues and special assessments over the years, coupled with the BP Oil money wiping out our debt, has created a surplus bank balance of around $1 Million.   What would you do with this money? Nothing until the Board adopts, with approval of the Membership, a package of realistic short-range and long-range goals.
What is your view on companies associated with a board member getting contracts to perform work for the lfpoa, either as a contractor or subcontractor? Big conflict of interest.  Any board member in that situation should be required to recuse him/herself from any discussion or vote on the contract and the members should be notified of such.
Do you believe there has been financial malfeasance associated with previous boards and if so, would you be willing to investigate, and prosecute if wrongdoing was discovered? I don’t think there has been, but some actions taken by the board lend to a perceived problem.   Yes, I would welcome an external investigation, by unbiased investigators, if the 2020 audit suggests wrong doing.  Prosecution would depending on the offence. 
How many board meetings (work sessions and stated meetings) did you attend, in person, in 2019? (either as a board member or a resident) I started attending meetings in May 2019 and haven’t missed a single one with the exception of Special Meetings of which no notice was ever given.
Would you have your lawyer threaten legal action and issue cease and desist orders against people who disagree with you? Not without confronting the person to work out an amicable solution.
Have you reviewed the financial statements and are you aware of the losses of each and every amenity?  Do you consider the losses to be acceptable? Yes, I am aware of the losses.  Continual losses are never acceptable.  For those who don’t play golf or eat out at the Yatch Club, it seems like we are throwing money in the bay.
Would you be happy to continue to have the revenue earning amenities (Golf Club and Yacht club) heavily subsidized despite the effect on our dues being so high? NO
If the membership voted to sell or re-purpose amenities such as the golf course and the yacht club, would you respect the membership decision and vote accordingly? Without a doubt. 
How would you deal with board member absenteeism? I have submitted a change to the bylaws to address absenteeism by automatically removing, without motion, offenders unable or unwilling to attend meeting because it should never be tolerated. 
How would you deal with lack of board member involvement, e.g. not submitting sub-committee reports? Submit the reports in a timely manner or submit your resignation to the committee and possibly the Board.
Does you work/life schedule give enough spare time over the next 5 years to devote to POA business and to attend all work sessions and stated meetings in person? I discussed this with myself and with my family for months before obligating myself even though I am retired.  I don’t make commitments frivolously.  I will make the time, with support from my family, to achieve my commitment.
Have you read, and understood, Robert’s Rules of Order?  Are you prepared to invoke Robert’s Rules when appropriate to ensure board meetings are conducted in the best interest of the Membership?  Are you aware of: The 6 steps that every motion must have?The 4 points which can be used to draw attention away from the person who has the floor to correct or clarify a situation? YES -I am familiar with these sections, however, one doesn’t read Roberts Rules like a novel.  It is a comprehensive book of reference.  AND YES – I am willing to invoke Roberts Rules when appropriate.
There are approximately 15 sub-committees; are you aware of them and which ones do you feel qualified to chair or serve on, and why? YES, Bylaws Committee, ARC, or the Nomination/Election Committee.  The bylaws have to change.
Are you willing to formally work with the members of the LFHOG Organizing Committee, and other member volunteers, to create an atmosphere of inclusion, information exchange, and overall improvement in the relationship between the POA board and the membership? Explain how you would achieve this. This is my primary reason for seeking election to the Board.  I would achieve it through constant open communication with the membership conveying the Member’s concern to the Board by any and all means at my disposal.
If you are not elected, what would be your future involvement in the POA and Lake Forest community (if any)? If I am not elected, that doesn’t mean I will silently go away.  The Board isn’t going to get rid of me that easily.  I will Continue working within the Homeowners Group in order to influence changes in favor of the Membership.  I would also be open to serving on one of the standing committees as a Non-Member of the Board.

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